Two things to know about earning an occupational therapy assistant degree and becoming an OTA: (1) it’s a two-year degree program, and (2) the time in school includes guided fieldwork that introduces you to all that an OTA does. OTA students say the fieldwork the most valuable part of the degree because they are interacting with clients.
The Role of the Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA)
You haven’t heard much about occupational therapy assistants. That’s OK. In many healthcare settings, they are the professional workforce helping clients live the most fulfilling life they can despite physical, having emotional, mental, rehabilitative, sensory, and developmental challenges. In many healthcare settings, they are the professional workforce helping clients live the most fulfilling life they can despite physical, emotional, mental, rehabilitative, sensory, and developmental challenges.
Occupational therapy includes an evaluation, a personalized plan to help clients achieve their goals, and outcome assessments to ensure progress toward goals.
OTAs work one-on-one with clients, leading the therapy activities designed to help the client achieve their goal. OTAs help people go from saying, “I want to do this,” to exclaiming, “Yes, I can do this.”
Examples of therapy activities an OTA might lead:
The Significance of Fieldwork in an Occupational Therapy Assistant Degree
When you realize the many different client populations OTAs serve, it’s easy to see the value of the four to five months of guided fieldwork. Realize that fieldwork is the final phase of the two-year Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Occupational Therapy Assistant degree program. According to a survey of currently working OTAs, more than 81% entered the workforce after earning this OTA degree.
Required courses are first up in the two-year A.A.S. program, such as psychology, English composition, and common health science terminology. These classes generally represent about one-third of the time in school.
The remaining time in school is a dive deep into professional OTA coursework, including individual instruction, group practice sessions, and guest speakers on various occupational therapy topics. All these components prepare students to address actual client scenarios.
All About the OTA Fieldwork Experience
The goal of Level I fieldwork is to develop a comfort level with the techniques and methods to achieve an accurate understanding of clients’ needs. Students spend time observing and having discussions with other OTA students, certified OTAs, and supervising Occupational Therapists (OTs),
When the supervising fieldwork evaluator determines these introductory competencies are satisfactory, OTA students move on to Level II fieldwork.
Learning objectives for Level II fieldwork include:
Where Fieldwork Happens
Depending on the location of the university offering your occupational therapy assistant degree, you’ll have different options. OTA degree programs at a university in a major metro area will offer the most variety, especially when those metro areas already have a strong healthcare reputation.
Traditional places for fieldwork experiences include:
In addition, some OTA degree programs will offer nontraditional fieldwork experience in community settings. Examples:
You’ll Like Being an OTA. You’ll Love the Career.
Those who choose the occupational therapy assistant degree as their outlet for caring about people also find the profession immensely fulfilling for themselves. The occupational therapy assistant profession now projects as the nation’s 4th fastest growing occupation for 2019-29, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Newly certified OTAs earn an average salary of about $45-$47,000 per year in the Midwest. OTAs with 3-4 years of experience have average salaries between $54,534 and $62,761, according to the data site salary.com.
The Occupational Therapy Assistant Degree at Cleveland University-Kansas City
Cleveland University-Kansas City (CUKC) is a nonprofit, private, healthcare-focused university in Overland Park, Kansas.
CUKC offers an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S. degree) in Occupational Therapy Assistant. Our two-year program delivers classes in sequential 8-week modules year-round. The OTA degree program includes the four-to-five months of required fieldwork experience, ensuring mastery of essential OTA skills and knowledge.
Other features of our A.A.S. in Occupational Therapy Assistant degree: